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 Post subject: WOTW Soundtrack Review
PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 1:32 pm 
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Martian War Lord

Joined: Wed Jan 12, 2005 7:01 pm
Posts: 1259
Location: UK
Reviewed by: Nick Joy

John Williams’ second fantasy score in as many months couldn’t be more different than Revenge of the Sith if he tried. Dark, gloomy and portentous, this is modern Williams in Minority Report mode, and like the aliens invading Earth, he’s not taking prisoners.

Steven Spielberg’s Tom Cruise-starring modern version of the HG Wells classic is one of summer 2005’s hottest cinema tickets, and his choice to use regular collaborator John Williams for scoring duties was a no-brainer. But those expecting blockbuster Johnny ‘Mr Hummable Theme’ Williams are in for a big shock, because this is one of his darkest atonal mainstream scores to date. Opening with ‘Prologue’, Williams sets the tone of the film with a deep throbbing pulse of strings that overlays narration by Morgan Freeman. As his scene-setting continues, some synths add to the unease and the dissonant rumble grows to a crashing climax. Richard Burton narrating to Jeff Wayne’s Seventies soft-rock this ain’t!

There’s no time for soft-focus Americana, as ‘The Ferry Scene’ cuts straight into the extra-terrestrial excitement. This is post-Minority Report Williams (not surprising when considering it’s the same director) and as a choir cuts through the rhythmic turmoil it paves the way for the invaders’ theme – low register brass over percussive scratches and swirls. A female choir is used to greater effect in ‘Reaching the Country’ as a theme for Earth’s survivors is introduced, but these glimmers of hope (predominantly represented by the woodwind) are few and far between as the metallic might of the invaders takes control with some twisted bars from ‘The Imperial March’. It might not be an original musical device to use crashing brass and percussion for robotic machinery/ UFO’s, with Williams even using this for ‘General Grievous’ in Revenge of the Sith, but it’s still undeniably effective and used to great effect through this score.

‘Ray and Rachel’ provides the emotional heart of the score, a touching theme that will appease those looking for a Born on the Fourth of July or Angela’s Ashes moment. ‘Probing the Basement’ is surely the score’s scariest and most dissonant, featuring a driving undercurrent similar to the shark’s theme in Jaws. Elsewhere, ‘The Return to Boston’ introduces a short-lived military motif in preparation for ‘Escape from the Basket’ which, at 9:21, is the longest and possibly most complex cue on the album.

Screenwriter David Koepp has been reported in the press as saying that he deliberately tried to avoid any of the genre’s clichés, such as blowing up landmarks, giving New York a tough time, or including characters like presidents or scientists in major roles. A similar approach has been adopted by Williams, who has dispensed with any Independence Day theatricality or histrionics, treating the material more as a horror film than anything vaguely jingoistic. Spielberg himself, in his liner notes, makes the observation that he likes scary music, citing Jaws as his favourite, and that War of the Worlds is a radical departure in musical style from the melodic phrasings of ET or Star Wars. There’s no dispute about that.

Incidentally, it took this reviewer three attempts to refold the liner insert that expands to a very long concertina-like sixteen panels. Admittedly not as fun as The Lost World’s foldout dino-rama, cartographers will no doubt revel at the clever folding required to get this monster back in its case.

A grimy, primal, tough and unsettling listening experience, and all the better for it. Williams had no need to top his previous alien movies Close Encounters or ET, and instead has opted for a modern action score with the fantasy elements dialled low. It’s not fantastical, but it’s still fantastic… a prime example of how Williams continues to adapt to contemporary needs instead of resting on vintage laurels. Don’t expect any of the themes to be played at the Boston Pops any time soon, just be afraid… we are not alone! As the acronym on Spielberg’s War of the World’s baseball cap proclaims – WoW!

Composer : John Williams
Conductor : John Williams
Label / No. : Decca 988 1413
Year of release : 2005
CD release: 2005
Total duration : 61:08


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